Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Zombies Come to Harford Mall

    Posted By on April 24, 2017

    The HAWKs supported the Harford Community College gaming day, HARCON, this past weekend.  The theme for HARCON this year was zombies.  Last year we changed our model for supporting HARCON.  In the past we ran a handful of games, but we found that many folks at the convention didn’t want to devote four hours to a miniatures game.  Last year we set up a large French and Indian Wars game so that a player could take a small group and execute a short, one-hour mission.  That worked well for us last year.  This year we set up the zombie shopping mall that we built as a club project in addition to a convenience store (“stop and rob”) and parking lot.  When players wanted to join the game, we gave them a survivor group and told them to gather supplies.

    A view of the zombie mall before the carnage began along with the HAWKs who orchestrated the event.

    A view of the zombie mall before the carnage began along with the HAWKs who orchestrated the event. (Picture courtesy Greg Priebe)

    We used G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. as the rules for the game.  When players searched an area, they made a Save roll.  If successful, they drew a random supply chit.  Each chit had a certain number of “victory points” as well as an “encumbrance.”  Encumbrance was depicted as a reduction in the movement allowance of the figure carrying it.  There was no maximum number of supplies a figure could carry, but eventually figures moved pretty slowly as a result of all the stuff they were carrying.

    Bruce, the big winner for the day, quietly gathered up supplies while herding zombies toward the inexperienced players.

    Bruce, the big winner for the day, quietly gathered up supplies while herding zombies toward the inexperienced players.

    A view of the area around the stop and rob.

    A view of the area around the stop and rob.

    Many of the HAWKs engaging in zombie squashing.

    Many of the HAWKs engaging in zombie squashing.

    Part of the table including the downed helicopter and the the stunned survivors waiting to be escorted to safety or eaten.

    Part of the table including the downed helicopter and the the stunned survivors waiting to be escorted to safety or eaten.

    Survivor groups included the Scooby Gang, The A-Team, the Ghostbusters, police, Boy Scouts, Mountain Folk, corporate women in high heels with guns, rampaging nuns, and others.  It enabled the players to choose a gang thats or too fit their personality and then play for an hour.

    BA Barracas and Hannibal Smith duking it out with a mob of zombies.

    BA Barracas and Hannibal Smith duking it out with a mob of zombies.

    When the smoke cleared, we had about twelve players join us for an hour to 90 minutes, including a number of people who had never played miniatures.

    Two young ladies joined the game along with their mom.

    Two young ladies joined the game along with their mom.

     

     

    ZombieSmith Alien Types

    Posted By on April 17, 2017

    My parents got me a bunch of the ZombieSmith aliens for Christmas, and I just got around to painting them.  Here they are:

    This is the crew of a space ship, hence the uniforms.  The figures on the end got a little dunked up by the dull coat, but when I sprayed them again, they came out just fine.

    I don’t even know what half this stuff is supposed to be, but they were fun to paint.

    The guy second from the left is from Planet Rastafaria.  You can see what he looks like from behind in the picture below.

    One of these looks like a professor I had once.

    The figure on the right is not Zombie Smith, but it was in the bin with the ZombieSmith figures, so I painted it.

    The figure on the left wasn’t ZombieSmith either, but I don’t know where it came from or what it is.  The one on the right is just weird.

    Slave2Gaming Alien Invaders

    Posted By on April 13, 2017

    Invader wearing Alien "armor"

    Invader wearing Alien "armor." Why is it that everyone sees a dead Alien as a badge of honor? Since there was an Alien skull on the interior of a space ship in the second Predator movie, this seems to be iconic.

    I recently received these alien invader figures from Slave2Gaming, which is an Australian outfit.  Their service was excellent, by the way.  I had a limited amount of painting time this weekend, so I was looking for something I could knock out quickly.

    A squad of Invaders

    A squad of Invaders

    I primed them black and then sprayed them silver.  Then I applied a Citadel Nuln Oil wash.  I still have no idea what the heck a Nuln is or why it needs to be oiled, but is a pretty good black wash.

    Invader leaders

    Invader leaders

    From many of my earlier blob posts you can see that I typically avoid the temptation to make all aliens green, but these guys were just crying to have green skin.  Though they had nice big eyes that would allow easy painting of pupils, I decided that the figures looked much more alien without them.

    Invader heavy weapons

    Invader heavy weapons

    I have enough of these to make a full squad for Combat Patrol(TM) or GASLIGHT plus a heavy weapon team, and an overall leader.  I suspect that the overlords of whatever planet they came from feel that that is a large enough invasion force to take over Hoboken, Fitchburg, or Cucamonga.

    Star Wars Combat Patrol(TM) Play Test

    Posted By on April 10, 2017

    The Rebels plot...

    The Rebels plot...

    This weekend I had a couple of the folks over who are working on supplements to Combat Patrol(TM) to help Greg play test aspects of his Star Wars supplement for Combat Patrol(TM).  All the combat stuff is working fine.  A focus of this play test was to look at the Jedi rules.  Greg has come up with rules to represent different Jedi powers from the movies, The Clone Wars, Rebels, and some of the “canon” comics.   We wanted to try to test as man of them as possible during this test.  Some powers got more testing than others, and we agreed that we need at least one more play test to work off a few more of the rough edges, but in general, it seemed to be working well.

    Stormtroopers and a "chicken walker" advance

    Stormtroopers and a "chicken walker" advance

    In this scenario, the good guys (Stormtroopers — I was on that side), were attacking a Rebel scum base.  Our goal was to plant one or more thermal detonators on the ships and disable them, killing as many Rebels as possible in the process.  Their goal was to stop us from doing that.

    The Rebels were supported by Luke Skywalker and Yoda.  On our side we had Darth Vader (pre “I am your father.”) and Darth Geoff, named after one of our club members.

    A blast from the chicken walker goes long, inflicting no damage on the Rebels.

    A blast from the chicken walker goes long, inflicting no damage on the Rebels.

    Most of the Rebels began near the freighter and in the three quonset huts.  As the game began they took up defensive positions on top of the Phantom and in the woods surrounding the base.

    Stormtroopers advance...

    Stormtroopers advance...

    Led by Darth Vader, three squads of Stormtroopers advance on our right toward the space ships while another squad and the chicken walker provide a screen on our left.

    Luke vs. the chicken walker

    Luke vs. the chicken walker

    Luke Skywalker used his acrobatic Jedi leap power to jump onto the chicken walker with the intent of cutting open a hole and dropping in a thermal detonator.  The chicken walker was supported by a squad of Stormtroopers who blazed away at Luke to thwart his efforts.  Luke used his Jedi shield skill, batting away blaster bolts.  Eventually the sheer volume of fire took its toll.  After three turns of him batting away bolts, trying to un-stun himself, and cut a hole, he succumbed to several blaster hits and was incapacitated, falling to the ground, where the chicken walker did a celebratory chicken dance on his body.  Go Stormtroopers!

    Rebels take up a defensive position along the wood line on the Rebel right.

    Rebels take up a defensive position along the wood line on the Rebel right.

    More Stormtroopers advancing

    More Stormtroopers advancing

    To get into good firing positions, our Stormtroopers had to advance across some open ground.  Greg lost half a squad, and one of my squads got badly mauled.  Eventually, however, I was able to get into a position in which my blaster rifles were in short range against the Rebels, but their blaster pistols were in long range.  Then my superior firepower began to tell, and I began cleaning the Rebels off the Phantom.

    Vader and Yoda in an epic light saber battle

    Vader and Yoda in an epic light saber battle

    Darth Vader used his Jedi inspirational power to lead a sort of Banzai charge against a group of Chris’ Rebels.  As part of the action, Darth Vader force leapt into melee with Yoda, but Yoda got a groin hit on Vader (perhaps the only piece of his anatomy not burned off in the lava pit), forcing him back.  This melee went on for a couple of turns, with the Stormtroopers eventually getting the better of it.

    Another view of the battle of Chris' woods on the Stormtrooper right

    Another view of the battle of Chris' woods on the Stormtrooper right

    Darth Geoff attacks!

    Darth Geoff attacks!

    Darth Geoff finally got into the action by Force leaping right on top of the Phantom to engage in hand-to-hand with Dave’s Rebel scum.  Dave was able to slow down Darth Geoff with some well-placed blaster fire, and then Yoda Force leapt on the Phantom.  Yoda employed the Force push/pull skill on Darth Geoff, throwing him off the Phantom.  In the next turn, Yoda cut Darth Geoff in half.

    The melee continues...

    The melee continues...

    While Yoda was cutting Darth Geoff down to Yoda’s size, Darth Vader leapt onto the freighter to cut a hole in which to drop a thermal detonator.  Despite several rounds of light saber combat with Yoda and some supporting fire from some of Dave’s Rebels, Vader eventually did cut a hole and drop in a detonator, which disabled the freighter.  Then Don’s chicken walker, no longer preoccupied by Luke Skywalker, moved to a position that was blocked from Dave’s shoulder-fired rocket launcher and begin shelling the Phantom.  After a couple of attempts he was able to penetrate the hull with a really good “die roll.”

    Darth and Yoda battle atop the freighter

    Darth and Yoda battle atop the freighter

    At that point, with both of their ships in flames, the Rebel spirit broke and they fled the field.

    About half of the Jedi skills were tested to an extent that we are comfortable with them.  We need at least one more play test before we’ll be comfortable.  Greg has completed his “historical research” on the orders of battle for droids, clones, rebels, and Stormtroopers.  He has also completed his “historical” research on the various weapons and equipment.  Once we clean up the Jedi rules, this free supplement will be ready to post to the Combat Patrol(TM) rules’ Web page for download.

    I have enjoyed these Star Wars games as a way to use all those miniatures from ten or so years ago.  The games have been fun. It has also been enjoyable to use a few bits of science-fiction scenery to turn a “normal” table into a Star Wars table.    We don’t have the next play test scheduled, but I am hoping to complete this supplement before the end of July.

     

     

    Bombshell Miniatures Scout Ship

    Posted By on April 8, 2017

    I acquired this scout ship kit from a buddy.  I assembled it a few weeks ago, but this weekend I finally had time to paint it.  I am very happy with this kit.  I am also very happy with Bombshell Miniatures.  When I got the kit from my buddy, it was missing one of the landing gear pads.  I sent an Email to Bombshell to see if I could buy a replacement pad.  The fact that it was missing was no fault of Bombshell; I bought it second hand; nevertheless, they put a replacement set of landing gear in the mail, and I received it in a couple of days.

    This is the cover art on the box, so you can see what to order if you want one of your own.

    This ship has a definitely retro feel.  There is a lot f nice detail on the kit to really make it pop.  These pictures make it look sort of white, but I painted it with an silver spray paint.

    In addition to this kit, I also knocked out some “space giants” I got from my buddy Ma’k.  You can see how they stack up against a variety of 25mm and 28mm figures in the following pictures.

    The figures other than the space giants have been discussed in earlier blog posts.

    Some Bombshell Miniatures Pulp SciFi Figures (and some other stuff)

    Posted By on April 7, 2017

    I received the Bombshell Miniatures’ ISW-69F Scout Ship from Rob, who had gotten it on Kickstarter, but then decided he didn’t want it.  I will post pictures of it in a subsequent blog posting (when I finish it).  In the box, however, were a handful of Bombshell Miniatures’ pulpy science fiction figures.  Over the past week, as time has permitted, I have been picking away at them.  As I had way too many hours at work this pay period, I took an hour or two to finish them up this morning.

    Some weeks ago I found these ducks on Ebay.  Anyone following this blog will know that I have been building up units of ducks for different games.  My Frostgrave gang, for instance, is made mostly of ducks.  I don’t know what manufacturer these are or for what game they were made, but the price was right, so I bought them.  They are clearly 1970′s sculpts, but they have a quirky quality I like.

    I didn’t paint these super heroes.  They came from a pack of Disney PVC collectors’ figurines and are about 28mm scale.  I am going to have to work Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl into a game.

    Close Air Support for Look, Sarge, No Charts: SciFi

    Posted By on April 4, 2017

    Two Reaper CAV close air support ships in a goofy desert style camouflage scheme

    Two Reaper CAV close air support ships in a goofy desert style camouflage scheme

    When we bought into the Reaper CAV Kickstarter to get a bunch of N-scale tanks and infantry, we also received some aircraft for close air support.  They had been languishing in my to-be-painted pile for some time.  I had to subject them to steam to bend them back into shape.  Then I sprayed them either black or brown, depending on the color scheme I was going to paint them.  The Rusotleum camouflage brown did not cause the Bones material to get sticky, but the Krylon matte black did.  Usually I can fix this with a coat of Army Painter anti-shine matte finish, but my local hobby store has been out for over a month.  I usually try to support my local store, but after four trips, I ordered three cans directly from Army painter, and they were cheaper!

    Two more CAV aircraft in two different camouflage schemes

    Two more CAV aircraft in two different camouflage schemes

    I haven’t decide if these will be units that get placed on the table or whether they will be merely close air support like in the WWII set.  I suspect the speed and range of these will be such that it is impractical to place them on the table.  Until I decide, I haven’t based them.

    Two Reaper CAV A-10 looking aircraft in two different camouflage schemes

    Two Reaper CAV A-10 looking aircraft in two different camouflage schemes

    I painted them in pairs by camouflage pattern.  Ideally each commander who gets close air support might get two with a distinguishing camouflage pattern to keep them straight on the table.

    As I have not back story or specific theater of operations in mind, the camouflage schemes are all over the map.  I even did a couple in solid olive and solid brown.

    Candidate Labels for Look, Sarge, No Charts: SciFi

    Posted By on April 4, 2017

    While I still have a lot of Combat Patrol(TM) projects to work, I have begun to think about the Near Future and Science Fiction variant of Look, Sarge, No Charts.  While Combat Patrol(TM) has been well received, it still hasn’t achieve the status of “cool rules.”  Still, I have been promising folks to start on the science fiction version for several years, and I suppose it is time to start.  All my battalions are painted up and ready to play.

    There are some who really appreciate the placement of the labels on the bases for LSNC so that all the information you need is right where you need it for both players to see.  Others don’t like the labels on the bases.  While I understand the up-front effort of building, printing, and gluing the labels on the bases, I have never quite understood the aesthetic argument.  If you print the labels on khaki paper, I think they quickly blend into the table after a turn or two.  I really don’t like the look of big chart cards on the table.  Even with Combat Patrol(TM) and GASLIGHT, where we get everything a player needs onto an index card, they tend to get scattered across the table and spoil the look of the game more than the base labels.  But, to each his own.  For those who don’t like the labels, I have provided downloadable rosters that players can use instead.

    When I posted the news that the WWI supplement had been released for download, someone of course felt compelled to point out that he doesn’t like the labels.  Another person responded that he thought it would be good if the labels were printed with a dark background.  So early this morning, I decided to see what that looked like.  Below is the traditional white background so that you can print the labels on a neutral colored paper.

    This is what the label would look like if I changed the background to a dark olive color.

    I twill be easy enough to provide both sets of labels for the game.

    What do you think?  Which do you like better?

    Spring Break Vacation

    Posted By on April 3, 2017

    Both Tom’s and Sam’s Spring breaks were the same week this year, so we took a family vacation to southern Florida to see the Everglades and the Keys.  We began our trip with half a day in the “Little Havana” portion of Miami, where we indulged in some terrific food.  We also purchased some Cuban sandwiches to take with us to have later for dinner.  During the walking tour the guide talked a lot about the Cuban community and the Bay of Pigs invasion.  We also passed a relatively famous park where the old timers play dominoes.

    After leaving Miami, we headed for Everglades National Park.

    The Everglades were worth seeing, but frankly, they were the least impressive of all the national parks we have visited.  There is not much variation from one stopping point to the next.  After you’ve seen a few gators and birds, not much changes.  Again, it was worth seeing, but I think we’ve checked that box.

    From the Everglades we headed down into the Keys, stopping for the night on Key Largo, staying as we usually do at a mom and pop motel.

    The Seafarer is on the “bay side” of the keys, pointing north and west toward the coast of Florida.  From here we could see a terrific sunset.

    We also enjoyed our Cuban sandwiches on the deck next to our room.  The Seafarer was low on ambiance on the outside of the rooms, but the insides were very nice, and they provided a nice continental breakfast that included egg frittatas,

    Cuban sandwiches made by Cubans in Little Havana. Oh, how cultural of us!

    The next morning we had planned to take a boat out the reef and snorkel for an hour or so.  The surf was too rough, with three-foot waves, so they weren’t taking folks out to the reefs who weren’t very experienced snorkels.  It wouldn’t have been much fun under those conditions, so instead we took a glass-bottom boat tour out to the reef.

    While waiting for our glass-bottom boat tour, we enjoyed the small aquarium at the state park.

    After about a 40 minute boat ride out to the reef, the boat slowed and loitered over the reef for about an hour while a guide pointed out different fish and coral.

    The number of fish wasn’t as high as I had expected, so after about 30 minutes, I had seen what I needed to see.  If the tour had been planned for just 30 minutes, however, it might have seen too short for the amount of money we paid.  This was definitely worth doing, but I think it would have been better in calmer weather.

    From Key Largo we headed to Marathon Key.  We had a terrific dinner at a local (but sort of expensive) seafood restaurant.  The local fish is yellow tail, and I had a lot of it during the trip.  It is a nice white fish that doesn’t smell or taste to seaweedy.

    We had an upstairs room with a nice view of sunrise, since we were on the “ocean side” of the Keys.

    Sunrise at Marathon Key

    Our second night at this hotel, Tom decided he wanted to sleep outside in a hammock.  It got a little chilly, but he said it was very nice.

    Morning on the beach...

    Marathon Key turned out to be the highlight of our vacation.  We visited the Dolphin Research center and paid an insane amount of money to swim with the dolphins.  As the weather was a little chilly, we rented some wet suits from a local dive shop.

    Suiting up...

    Each of us had a chance to get pulled around the tank by a pair of dolphins.

    Then we each had a chance to perform some other tricks with dolphins, such as…

    … shaking hands…

    … and getting a smooch.

    In this picture we’re not telling them to wait a minute or count to one.  We are preparing to tell them to swim fast across the pool.  They were so fast that if you blinked you might actually miss them swimming across the tank.

    From Marathon Key we headed to Key West.  Along the way we saw an electrician working on some power lines from a helicopter.

    Here we stood on the southern most part of the continental US and found the beginning of highway one, which runs up the coast to Maine.

    Frankly, Key West didn’t do much for any of us.  The place seems to really be about nightlife, partying, and drunk people behaving badly.  We had some very good food, and had a good time, but it is a place I am not in a hurry to visit again.

    A view of Key West from the tower at the shipwreck museum.

    We visited Ernest Hemingway’s house on Key West, which was interesting.  We also saw the 50+ cats, a large percentage of which have six toes.

     It wouldn’t be a vacation without miniature golf.  There is only one miniature golf course on the Keys.  Being the only one, it could have been bad and still been crowded, but it was one of the better courses we’ve played.  So we played it again on our way back to the mainland for our flight home.  The first time we played, three of us had 49s and one had a 50.  The second time the spread was about four points between first and last place.  The miniature golf has become quite fun as everyone has come close in skill.

    The Slaughter So Swift Released

    Posted By on March 30, 2017

    I am proud to announce the release of FREE a supplement by Duncan Adams for Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII. The Slaughter So Swift: Look, Sarge, No Charts: 1914 is a supplement for fighting battles in the early months of WWI, when battles were fluid and uniforms were still pretty.

    Duncan drew from three sources to create this supplement:

    • Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII,
    • A Union So Tested: Look, Sarge, No Charts: American Civil War, and
    • His own research on World War I.

    He has been running games using these variants for a couple of years at gaming conventions. Based on a demand from many of the people who played in his games, I encouraged Duncan to put his ideas on paper. The result is a free supplement that you will enjoy if you are interested in that historical period.

    The Slaughter So Swift is a supplment to Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII. You will need a copy of those rules to use this supplement.

    You can download the supplement here.

    You can find more information about the Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules here.